Arne Duncan

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Arne Duncan
9th United States Secretary of Education
Assumed office
January 21, 2009
President Barack Obama
Deputy Anthony Miller
James Shelton
Preceded by Margaret Spellings
C.E.O. of Chicago Public Schools
In office
June 26, 2001 – January 21, 2009
Appointed by Richard M. Daley
Preceded by Paul Vallas
Succeeded by Ron Huberman
Personal details
Born (1964-11-06) November 6, 1964 (age 50)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Alma mater Harvard University

Arne Duncan (born November 6, 1964) is an American education administrator who has been United States Secretary of Education since 2009. Duncan previously served as chief executive officer of the Chicago Public Schools district from 2001-2009.

Early years and education[edit]

Duncan was raised in Hyde Park, a Chicago neighborhood encompassing the University of Chicago. He is the son of Susan Goodrich (née Morton) and Starkey Davis Duncan, Jr. His father was a psychology professor at the university and his mother runs the Sue Duncan Children's Center, an after-school program primarily serving African-American youth in the nearby Kenwood neighborhood.

Duncan attended the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools[1] and later Harvard University, where he graduated magna cum laude in 1987 with a bachelor's degree in sociology. His senior thesis, for which he took a year's leave to do research in the Kenwood neighborhood, was entitled "The values, aspirations and opportunities of the urban underclass".[2]

Education career[edit]

In 1992, childhood friend and investment banker John W. Rogers, Jr., appointed Duncan director of the Ariel Education Initiative, a program mentoring children at one of the city's worst-performing elementary schools and then assisting them as they proceeded further in the education system.[2] After the school closed in 1996, Duncan and Rogers were instrumental in re-opening it as a charter school, Ariel Community Academy.[3] In 1999, Duncan was appointed Deputy Chief of Staff for former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas.[4]

CEO of Chicago Public Schools[edit]

Mayor Richard M. Daley appointed Duncan to serve as Chief Executive Officer of the Chicago Public Schools on June 26, 2001.[5] Opinions vary on Duncan's success as CEO; one prominent publication notes improved test scores and describes Duncan as a consensus builder,[6] while another finds the improvements largely a myth and is troubled by the closing of neighborhood schools and their replacement by charter schools, and what it describes as schools' militarization.[7]

U.S. Secretary of Education[edit]

Duncan was appointed U.S. Secretary of Education by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the Senate on January 20, 2009.[8] One of Duncan's initiatives as secretary has been a $4 billion Race to the Top competition. It asks states to vie for federal education dollars by submitting proposals that include reforms such as expanding charter schools and judging teachers partly on how well their students do on standardized tests.[9] Duncan and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack are the most senior members of the Obama cabinet, having served since 2009.

In March 2011, Duncan said 82 percent of the nation’s public schools could be failing by next year under the standards of the No Child Left Behind law. The projection amounts to a startling spike from current data, which shows that 37 percent of schools are on track to miss targets set by the law. "Four out of five schools in America would not meet their goals under [No Child Left Behind] by next year", Duncan said in his opening statement.

On July 4, 2014, the National Education Association, the largest teacher's union in the United States, passed a resolution of "no confidence" in Duncan's leadership of the Department of Education and asked for his resignation.[10]

On July 13, 2014, the American Federation of Teachers approved a resolution calling for Education Secretary Arne Duncan to resign if he does not improve under a plan to be implemented by President Barack Obama.[11] The “improvement plan” would require that Secretary Duncan enact the equity and funding recommendations of the Equity Commission’s “Each and Every Child” report; revise the No Child Left Behind and Race To The Top “test-and-punish” system of accountability to a “support-and-improve” structure; and “promote rather than question” teachers and school staff.

Personal life[edit]

While in Australia, Duncan met his future wife, Karen Luann Duncan,[12] a native of Tasmania.[13] They live in Arlington County, Virginia. Their children, Claire and Ryan, attend public middle and elementary school there.[14]


Duncan playing in the 2014 NBA All-Star Weekend Celebrity Game.

While at Harvard, Duncan co-captained the varsity basketball team and was named a first team Academic All-American.[1][15] From 1987 to 1991, Duncan played professional basketball, mostly in Australia, with teams including Melbourne's Eastside Spectres, of Australia's National Basketball League.[16] Duncan also participated in the 2012, 2013, and 2014 NBA All-Star Weekend Celebrity Games. Comedian Kevin Hart conceded the 2014 MVP of the celebrity game to Duncan (20 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists).[17][18][19] The 20 points are a Celebrity Game high.

On May 11, 2014, Duncan was a member of the 2014 USA Basketball 3x3 Men's Championship Team. The team of Duncan, Jitim Young, Thomas Darrow and Craig Moore qualified to represent the United States in Moscow, Russia in the 24-country 2014 FIBA 3x3 World Championship from June 5–8.[20] Duncan's schedule did not permit him to attend,[21] but the team finished in 9th place in the 24-team tournament.[22]


Addressing a group of school superintendents in late 2013, Arne Duncan stated that he found it "fascinating" that some of the opposition to the Common Core State Standards Initiative came from "white suburban moms who — all of a sudden — their child isn't as brilliant as they thought they were, and their school isn't as good as they thought they were."[23] This had sparked outrage among different facets of society, ranging from the "white suburban mom who feel marginalized and misunderstood", the "non-white parent who wants to know why everyone is only now so upset", to the "non-white parent who wants Arne Duncan to know that she (or he) hates the Common Core, too".[24]

Vice-President of Content with HBCU Buzz Inc., Robert K. Hoggard wrote in his open letter to Duncan, "Shockingly, over 14,000 students from our nation’s HBCUs have been declined Parent PLUS loans. As of Aug. 9, 300 students from Morgan State University were in jeopardy of dropping out because of lack of financial aid. The Education Department recently dropped the maximum income eligibility for Pell Grants to $28,000, making thousands of urban applicants ineligible. It is an injustice for thousands of students and someone like myself with a 3.3 GPA to be declined from federal aid to pay for school. What will you do for the thousands of students who are faced with a conundrum like this?" [25]


  1. ^ a b Williams, Carla D. (1984-01-10). "Blue Chip Stock". Archived from the original on 5 June 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-13. 
  2. ^ a b "Will Obama’s Choice Change Education in America? | Harvard Graduate School of Education". 2010-08-17. Retrieved 2011-06-13. 
  3. ^ Young, Lauren (March 2002). "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood". SmartMoney. Archived from the original on 19 December 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-17. 
  4. ^ "Deputy steps up to schools CEO". Crain's Chicago Business. July 2, 2001. 
  5. ^ "Arne Duncan". Chicago Public Schools. 2008. 
  6. ^ Kingsbury, Kathleen (December 16, 2008). "Will Arne Duncan Shake Up America's Schools?". Time. Retrieved April 25, 2010. 
  7. ^ Brown, Jitu. "Rethinking Schools Online". Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-13. 
  8. ^ "Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education - Biography". Archived from the original on 15 June 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-13. 
  9. ^ "Bill Gates's college tour". The Washington Post. 
  10. ^ Heitin, Liana; Sawchuk, Stephen (July 4, 2014). "NEA Calls for Secretary Duncan's Resignation". Education Week. 
  11. ^ Grasgreen, Allie (July 13, 2014). "Another teachers union ding for Arne Duncan". Politico. 
  12. ^ "Obama". Time. December 2, 2008. Retrieved April 25, 2010. 
  13. ^ Rintoul, Stuart (18 December 2008). "Aussie lessons for Obama's school tsar Arne Duncane". The Australian. 
  14. ^ "Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education - Biography". Archived from the original on 15 June 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-13. 
  15. ^ Sweet, Lynn (December 15, 2008). "Arne Duncan to be named Obama Education Secretary". Chicago Sun-Times. 
  16. ^ "Former NBL star for White House team". 
  17. ^
  18. ^ Greenberg, Chris (February 24, 2012). "U.S. Secretary Of Education Schools Celebs At Hoops". Huffington Post. 
  19. ^
  20. ^ "USA Basketball Men’s And Women’s 3x3 World Championship Teams Named Following 2014 USA Basketball 3x3 National Championship". USA Basketball. 2014-05-11. Retrieved 2014-05-11. 
  21. ^ Ellenport, Craig (2014-06-03). "Passion For The Game: Arne Duncan". USA Basketball. Retrieved 2014-06-11. 
  22. ^ "USA Women Take Gold At 2014 FIBA 3x3 World Championship". USA Basketball. 2014-06-08. Retrieved 2014-06-11. 
  23. ^ Strauss, Valerie (November 16, 2013). "Arne Duncan: 'White suburban moms' upset that Common Core shows their kids aren't 'brilliant'". The Washington Post. 
  24. ^ "3 Types Of People Outraged By Education Boss' 'White Suburban Moms' Comment". Huffington Post. November 18, 2013. 
  25. ^ Robert K Hoggard. "Thanks for Nothing: An Open Letter to the Secretary of Education". Washington DC: HBCU Buzz Inc. Retrieved December 18, 2014. 

External links[edit]

Media related to Arne Duncan at Wikimedia Commons

Educational offices
Preceded by
Paul Vallas
Superintendent of Chicago Public Schools
Succeeded by
Ron Huberman
Political offices
Preceded by
Margaret Spellings
United States Secretary of Education
United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Ernest Moniz
as Secretary of Energy
Order of Precedence of the United States
Secretary of Education
Succeeded by
Robert McDonald
as Secretary of Veterans Affairs
United States presidential line of succession
Preceded by
Ernest Moniz
as Secretary of Energy
15th in line
Secretary of Education
Succeeded by
Robert McDonald
as Secretary of Veterans Affairs